Fermenting Rebellion: Former fake flavoring flack finds fulfillment in fermentation

From cashew cheese to homemade soda, Amanda Feifer is Philly-fying fermentation with her blog Phickle.com.  Once a marketing executive for a large food corporation, Feifer began making yogurt nearly 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until later that she realized she was actually fermenting. Though she made her living selling flavorings to food manufacturers, she was determined to find a better way of eating at home.

“The first ferment I ever made was yogurt,” she says, “and I think it was just because I was so carefully looking at all of the grocery store products. I was wondering, what is the point of eating this? It’s loaded with artificial flavors. Being confronted with those products all the time and living a life so separate from that really made me look for the best thing I could do in terms of health.”

Phickle.com emphasizes lactic acid fermentation, rather than vinegar pickling or canning. “When you make canned pickles,” says Feifer, “you have to sterilize everything, and that’s killing off the good and bad bacteria alike. When you ferment, you’re getting the probiotic benefit and the minerals, which are an alkaline food.”

Feifer’s recipes are surprisingly user-friendly. “We’re crazy busy all the time,” she says, “but the good news is, if I make a quart of pickles, which takes maybe five minutes, in two weeks I have something delicious to put into rice. I think the act itself is empowering because once you realize how easy it is, if you just follow a few simple rules — temperature, submersion and time — you’ll be amazed what you can make.”

And Phickle.com is all about preventing food waste: Creative tips like pickling kale ribs for salads or making vinegar from fruit scraps prove just how ecologically-friendly fermentation can be.

“Fermented foods are the spice of life,” says Feifer. “We’re just kind of at the beginning of scientific research in these areas, but it’s kind of magic. It’s a little like alchemy to me that you can put salt water and a vegetable in a jar and come away with a pickle!”

Story by Molly O’Neill